AMBĀLĀ, (30º-23'N, 76º-47'E), a city in Haryāṇā, has several historical shrines sacred to the Gurūs.
GURDWĀRĀ BĀDSHĀHĪ BĀGH, situated near the district courts, occupies the site which used to be a halting place for the Mughal emperors when travelling from Delhi to the Punjab or Kashmīr. Gurū Gobind Siṅgh came here at the end of 1670 or in early 1671 during one of his excursions from Lakhnaur. Then only a small child, he had greatly impressed Pīr Nūr Dīn (or Mīr Dīn), custodian of the nearby Muslim shrine. According to local tradition, the young Gurū miraculously made ordinary sparrows fight against the arrogant Pīr's hawk which, badly mauled, fell down dead near Labhū kā Tālāb in another part of the city. The Pīr, now humbled, made obeisance to the Gurū, and built a platform in his honour. Later during the last quarter of the eighteenth century, Mehar Siṅgh of Nishānāṅvālī misl raised a small gurdwārā which, however, was blown off during a British attack on the rebel forces in 1857. The land thereafter passed into private possession. The owner, having become aware of the sanctity of the place, built a room on the old foundations, but it was in a state of neglect when the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee took it over in 1926. Five years later, through the initiative of Sant Gurmukh Siṅgh of Paṭiālā, the Sikhs erected a more befitting building and laid out a garden around it. The present complex was raised by Nirmalā saints after the partition of 1947. The management again passed to the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee and the Nirmalās shifted to an āshram near by.
The Gurdwārā entered through a high gate in a wall with ramparts giving it the appearance of a fortress. The rectangular dīvān hall has a vaulted ceiling. The sanctum within the hall marks the site of the old shrine.
GURDWĀRĀ GOBINDPURĀ PĀTSHĀHĪ DĀSVĪṄ, located along the Jain College Road, close to an old tank called Labbhū kā Tālāb is sacred to Gurū Gobind Siṅgh. According to local tradition, Gurū Gobind Siṅgh, during his visit to Ambālā in 1670-71, in order to humble the pride of an arrogant Muslim divine, Pīr Nūr Dīn, miraculously made sparrows kill the Pīr's hawk. The hawk, chased by the sparrows, fell down dead near Labhū kā Tālāb. It was a Muslim locality. Pīr Sayyid Shāh, another Muslim divine, witnessed the miracle from here, and sought from the young Gurū the favour of a spring of sweet water as the wells in the area were brackish. The well dug at the Gurū's instance still exists in the backyard of the gurdwārā. The present building, however, was constructed only after 1947. It consists of a single flat roofed hall, which includes a square sanctum, marking the site of the original shrine.
GURDWĀRĀ MAÑJĪ SĀHIB (BĀOLĪ SĀHIB) is the premier gurdwārā of the city. Gurū Hargobind, while on his way to Delhi to meet Emperor Jahāṅgīr, stayed here for a night. The place, then a small village called Khurrampur, suffered from a chronic scarcity of water. The Gurū asked his followers to construct a bāolī, or a well with steps reaching down to water level. The bāolī was ready by the time he returned and broke journey here again for an overnight halt. Gurū Gobind Siṅgh is also said to have visited the place travelling towards Kurukshetra in 1702. According to local tradition, Bandā Siṅgh Bahādur also halted here before advancing upon Chhat-Banūṛ and Sirhind in 1710. On the establishment of Sikh power in the Punjab during the second half of the eighteenth century, Ambālā and its surrounding territory fell to the share of the Nishānāṇvālī Misl. Mehar Siṅgh of this misl or chiefship got the bāolī restored and had a room built on the site of the old Mañjī Sāhib. Khurrampur village was subsequently destroyed by floods in the river Ṭāṅgrī, and the shrine remained in a state of neglect until Mahārājā Hīrā Siṅgh (1843-1911) of Nābhā rebuilt it at the beginning of the twentieth century. Following the partition of the Punjab in 1947, the Sikh population increased with migrations from West Punjab. The cornerstone of a new building was laid on 12 May 1951. The main building consists of an imposing three-storeyed gateway, flanked by octagonal domed towers and a spacious rectangular hall. Within the hall is the sanctum marking the site of the original Mañjī Sāhib. Thebāolī is at the farthest end of the hall. A local committee manages the shrine subject to the overall control of the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee. A girls school, named in honour of Gurū Hargobind, functions on the premises of the Gurdwārā. The most important festival of the year is the birth anniversary of Gurū Hargobind which comes off in the month of June.
GURDWĀRĀ SATSAṄG SĀHIB honours the memory of Gurū Tegh Bahādur and Gurū Gobind Siṅgh. Gurū Gobind Siṅgh (1666-1708), once on his way from Anandpur to Kurukshetra, halted here under a tree near the potters' huts. An old man, Mehar Dhūmīāṅ, urged the Gurū to shift away from the tree which, he said, was haunted. He described an old incident saying that one evening an unidentified traveller had stopped there with his load of a covered basket and had asked him (Dhūmīāṅ) if there was a Sikh house in the vicinity. Dhūmīāṅ had directed the wayfarer towards the locality where the shrine of Twakkal Shāh stood, but, to his horror, he observed bloodstains on the branch-leaves where the stranger had hung his basket. From the circumstances narrated Gurū Gobind Siṅgh could make out that the stranger was no other than Bhāī Jaitā, carrying to Anandpur the head of Gurū Tegh Bahādur. A platform was raised on the site. Gurū Gobind Siṅgh prolonged his stay holding holy assemblies or satsaṅg for the Sikhs. The shrine came to be known as Gurdwārā Satsaṅg. For a long time this sacred spot remained part of the private house of its priests. It was only in 1934 that a committee was formed. A new building was raised in 1935. In recent years another hall has been added, enclosing the older double storeyed domed structure.
GURDWĀRĀ SĪS GAÑJ, about 300 metres from Gurdwārā Mañjī Sāhib, is sacred to Gurū Tegh Bahādur. After the Gurū had been executed publically in Delhi on 11 November 1675 under the orders of Emperor Auraṅgzīb, one of his Sikhs, Bhāī Jaitā carried off his severed head to Anandpur, while his body was cremated by Bhāī Lakkhī Shāh in Delhi. Bhāī Jaitā travelling incognito with the Gurū's head (sīs) stayed in a Sikh's house in Ambālā, the site of the Gurdwārā Sīs Gañj. Local devotees raised a platform to mark the spot. In 1913, when the Sikh Educational Conference met for its sixth annual session at Ambālā, the site sprang into limelight. The custodians of the adjoining Muslim shrine of Twakkal Shāh objected to the Sikhs' visiting the place in large numbers. A civil suit followed which, however, went in the Sikhs' favour. In 1925, the control was entrusted to the newly constituted Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee. The new building, completed in 1969, consists of a double storeyed domed gateway and a small dīvān hall.
Major Gurmukh Siṅgh (Retd.)